Exclusive: Iraq still using bogus bomb detectors – and thousands pay the price

More than 4,500 people have been killed since the conviction of UK businessman, James McCormick, in April

Bogus bomb detectors are still being used in Iraq five months after a British businessman who supplied the devices was found guilty of fraud.

More than 4,500 people are estimated to have been killed in Iraq – 979 of them in September alone – since James McCormick, a former policeman, was convicted at the Old Bailey in April. His trial heard that the devices he was  selling, called ADE-651, were based on novelty golf-ball finders and had no scientific means of detecting explosives.

The Iraqi government promised after the trial that the fake detectors would be phased out. But they were still in use at checkpoints two days ago when 55 people were killed by bombs packed into cars in Baghdad. The responsibility for the attacks was claimed by an al-Qa’ida-linked group, which began its current campaign of violence around five months ago.

The sale of the devices to Iraq was alleged to have been aided by the payment of huge bribes to local officials. McCormick is said to have made a total of $75m (£46.2m) from the Iraqi government, charging $40,000 for each unit, which cost $20 to produce.

Major General Jihad al-Jabiri, the head of the Interior Ministry’s directorate for combat explosives, and two other officials were jailed for corruption over the deal and 15 others were alleged to have been involved.

After McCormick was handed a 10-year sentence, Iraq’s deputy Interior Minister Adnan Asadi announced that the detectors would be replaced. He did not stipulate how and when, but it was later confirmed by the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, that sniffer dogs would be brought in to search for explosive devices.

So far only two provinces in the south, Dhi Qar and Wasit – neither of which is on the front line of the recent violence – have invested in canine units. Around 20 dogs were bought to guard the capital’s Green Zone, but the country’s parliamentary security committee discovered they had not actually been trained to detect explosives. The “dog option” has also led to allegations of corruption. Even before the detector scandal, MPs claimed in July 2011 that there were 27 cases of financial malpractice in the purchase of dogs for security work.

James McCormick was found guilty of fraud in April (Getty) James McCormick was found guilty of fraud in April (Getty)  

Some Iraqi officials complain that contradictory statements from the highest echelons of government had undermined efforts to ban the fake devices. In May this year, Mr Maliki was still insisting that some of the ADE 651s worked. He said: “The best devices in the world do not detect explosives more than 60 per cent of the time. Results we obtained indicate that these devices detect from 20 to 50 per cent. So, some of the devices were real and were detecting explosives.”

Before his conviction, General al-Jabiri had declared: “I know more about bombs than the Americans do, in fact I know more about bombs than anyone else in the world.”

Others, however, had stressed the dangers after McCormick’s sentence. Aqil al-Turaihi, inspector-general at the Interior Ministry, said: “I feel furious that this gang of Jim McCormick and the Iraqis working with him killed my people by creating false security and selling such a useless device.”

“There was corruption associated with this contract and we referred to this and submitted our report to the Minister of the Interior.”

Jawad al-Shihaili, an MP in the parliamentary integrity committee, claimed that the warnings had been ignored due to pressure from vested interests.

A bogus bomb detector, and its case, seized by police in the UK A bogus bomb detector, and its case, seized by police in the UK  

Monday’s bombing, a sectarian attack aimed at the Shia community, is said to have been carried out by the al-Qa’ida-affilitated Islamic State of Iraq. Another branch of the organisation, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is now the most extreme jihadi group among the rebels fighting across the border against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

A journalist who has worked for The Independent in Iraq in the past, described his surprise at seeing the fake detectors each time he went back to Baghdad. Hassan Ali (not his full name, which has been withheld for security reasons) said from Baghdad: “Some of the junior ranks actually believe they work; more senior ones say it is better than nothing and acts as a deterrent... Some say that the first batch they got worked, the other ones that came later did not. Of course it’s all nonsense.”

One of the explosions on Monday took place in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Hakim Mohammed Jaffar, a schoolteacher, witnessed the blast. “I saw five dead bodies,” he said. “Some children had been hurt as well. There was a lot of blood, it was a very bad to see.

“I went through one checkpoint on the way in [to Sadr City] where they had the detectors just before the bombing. They look like wands and they are supposed to bend when they spot a bomb. But they are useless, everyone one knows that.”

Another of the blasts took place in the Kazhamiyah district. Hassan Abu Ridha, whose neighbour was injured, said: “My cousin is a policeman and he says they know these things do not work, but they have no orders to stop using them and they have been given nothing else. The British should have stopped them being sold in the first place, but now it is fault of our government that people are dying.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us